CHAPTER ELEVEN: Ranger Activities In Crater Lake National Park: 1916-Present

Crater Lake National Park: Administrative History by Harlan D. Unrau and Stephen Mark, 1987

 CHAPTER ELEVEN: Ranger Activities In Crater Lake National Park: 1916-Present

The ranger force at Crater Lake National Park consisted of a small staff during the early years under National Park Service administration. In 1917 Superintendent Sparrow reported that the ranger force “consists of one permanent first-class ranger and three rangers for the months of July, August, and September.” The principal duties of the rangers were enforcement of park regulations, protection of its resources, prevention and control of forest fires, and operation of the park entrance stations. Two rustic log ranger cabins were constructed in 1917 at the east and west entrances of the park to complement the existing cabin at the south entrance. [1]

The Crater Lake ranger force expanded in 1918 and 1919. One permanent year-round ranger was stationed at headquarters. In addition three temporary rangers were assigned to mounted patrol during the summer months and three were employed at the checking stations at the park entrances. [2]

The ranger force and its attendant responsibilities at Crater Lake grew slowly during the 1920s. Superintendent Sparrow reported in 1920 that during the tourist season

the regular force consisted of one superintendent, one clerk and seven temporary rangers. Three rangers were stationed at the East, West and South Entrances, one at Anna Spring, one at Government Camp and two on patrol, fire protection and trails. [3]

As visitation to the park increased the number of temporary park rangers was expanded. In 1924, for instance, the ranger force was increased to nine seasonal rangers under the direction of the permanent ranger employed at park headquarters. [4]

Despite the growth of the ranger force the responsibilities placed on them led to calls for more rangers. In 1926 Superintendent Thomson reported that an “insufficient ranger force prevents adequate protection of this 249 square miles of mountainous territory.” The duties of the rangers, which stretched manpower too thin, consisted of (1) enforcing park regulations; (2) protecting wildlife; (3) patroling roads and campgrounds; (4) stocking the lake with fish; (5) aiding visitors; (6) preventing and controlling forest fires; (7) participating in forest insect control; (8) travel entrance checking and information; (9) compiling travel statistics; and (10) handling the park communication system. [5]

In 1928 Superintendent Thomson again stressed the inadequacy of the park ranger force. He observed:

Park protection was inadequate due to limited ranger personnel. One ranger and eight temporary rangers hired only for the travel season can not possibly protect an area of 249 square miles, particularly as their energies are almost entirely consumed in handling well over 100,000 visitors who enter through five stations and circulate over a road system of 67 miles. Ranger personnel is so inadequate that we don’t know what goes on in the Park except upon the roads. There is no patrolling [sic], no reconnaissance [sic], no protection against poaching. [6]

In response to such complaints the ranger force was expanded during the next several years. By 1929 the force consisted of ten seasonals under Chief Ranger W.C. Godfrey. That year the checking stations at the west and south entrances were consolidated into one station at Anna Spring, thus requiring only four rangers to handle traffic checking compared to six in previous years. [7]

In 1930 a Park Service report examined the ranger organization and its primary duties. Among other things the document stated:

The ranger force constitutes the protection organization of the park. The Chief Ranger is the only year long member of this force. During the park season there are ten temporary rangers employed, including the checkers and information rangers. One of these men is already assigned to patrol along the roads and policing of camp grounds, but cannot cover all the territory that is essential. One additional patrolman is needed, in order that all the roads from the west, south and east entrances, as well as the road around the Rim, may be patrolled each day and all camps visited. . . .

It is fortunate that both the Superintendent and the Chief Ranger are experienced in fire suppression work. It is desirable also that the temporary rangers be given a two or three day training course in protection work at the beginning of their appointments. The key men in the road and trail crews and construction foreman should also be included in this school so that they will be prepared to act as crew leaders for their men in case they are called into service as fire fighters. [8]

Tragedy struck the park staff on November 17, 1930, when Chief Ranger Godfrey was found dead in the park as a result of exposure to the cold. David H. Canfield, a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a graduate of the University of Minnesota, was named the new chief ranger. He took up his duties at Crater Lake in May 1931, having been transferred from Mesa Verde National Park by NPS Director Albright. [9]

During the early 1930s the Depression had a major impact on the park ranger staff. In 1933, for instance, the force consisted of Chief Ranger Canfield, permanent rangers Don C. Fisher and Charles H. Simon, twelve seasonals, and two temporary fire guards. [10] (See the table below for the backgrounds of 8 of the 12 seasonal rangers.) Two years later, however, Canfield, who had become superintendent, reported on the problems occasioned by personnel cutbacks:

Due to the lack of permanent rangers–there being only one and he was unable to devote the time, this park again fell behind the vanguard during this period of emergency monies when most parks are making great strides.

Chief Ranger [J. Carlisle] Crouch was transferred to this park from Mesa Verde late in the spring; but for several months he has been the only permanent member of the ranger force. In order to approach adequate protection of the park and to provide service to visitors it is imperative that additional rangers be authorized in the near future. [11]